Before diving into some of the features that set the two new apps apart from existing Google messaging platforms, let’s take a moment to count just how many messaging services Google now has. On second thought, that would take too long—it’s far too many.
Anyone watching the keynote probably noticed the number of times the various presenters referred to Google’s Hangouts and Messenger apps: exactly zero times. Google knows Hangouts and Messenger are dead. We now know it’s dead. Here are five reasons why Allo and Duo are set to take over Google’s messaging aspirations.
Based on your phone number
Forget having to ask friends and family members to sign up for a Google account just to use Hangouts, because Allo and Duo will rely on a phone number. Indeed, the days of jumping between Hangouts and Messenger depending on who you're contacting could soon be over.
Google’s new Assistant platform is built into Allo. You can message in private with Assistant (just strike up a conversation with @google) to get sports updates and play games, or use Assistant in a conversation to get more information on a local restaurant, set reservations, find a movie, or even pull up photos from your Google Photos library.
Assistant in Allo works in a similar fashion to Facebook’s chatbot platform, only Assistant goes beyond a simple text interface. Assistant will also be used in other Google products, including the company’s newly revealed Amazon Echo competitor, Google Home.
As we first saw in Google’s Inbox platform, Allo is gaining similar smart reply capabilities. When you receive a message asking if you want to go to dinner, Allo will give you predefined reply options, ready for you to tap and send.
Allo will learn over time how you typically respond to a question, and begin offering reply options that fit your personality. For example, if you often say “k” instead of “OK” Allo will learn that.
Also, Allo leverages Google Photos' ability to identify what’s in a photo to provide smart reply options. During one demo, a photo was received that contained a bowl of pasta. The smart reply options included both linguine and clams, two of the elements found in the dish. It was rather impressive.
Whisper and Shout
Instead of typing with caps lock on to demonstrate your anger or excitement, Allo will allow you to adjust a single message's font size before sending it. You can go smaller to whisper, or bigger to SHOUT a message.
The slider is hidden under the send button, using a simple tap-and-hold to bring it up. Slide up to increase font size, slide down to decrease. Now you don't need to use all caps! (But we know you will.)
Allo will bring Chrome’s Icognito feature to chat. When activated, Allow will use end-to-end encryption to secure messages between the participants. Notifications for Incognito conversations will lack any identifying information, such a message preview and the sender’s name.
Once you close out a conversation, the chat history vanishes. Google even briefly mentioned expiring messages during Wednesday’s keynote.
Duo does video calls differently
Duo is Google’s new dedicated app for video calling for iOS and Android users alike.
When a call is first placed, the recipient’s phone will show a live feed preview of the person calling, not just a static profile picture. Google claims Duo is optimized to work on networks with limited bandwidth, meaning you should be able to hold video calls regardless of your network connection.
We can make fun of Google for having so many different messaging platforms, but have to applaud them for continuing to try something new. Yes, it’s frustrating and annoying. But at least we have shiny new apps to try at the end of the day, right? And someone has to push forth a broadly-supported RCS-based messaging platform, right?